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Rare photo of Edgar Allan Poe goes up for auction at New York gallery

Tintype of Edgar Allan Poe to be auctioned by New York gallery
(Swann Galleries /)

A rare photo of the horror writer and Baltimore icon Edgar Allan Poe will be auctioned in New York on — when else? — Valentine's Day.

The photo was taken in September 1849 — just three weeks before the author's mysterious death at the age of 40 — and is expected to fetch between $10,000 and $15,000, according to a news release issued by New York's Swann Auction Galleries.

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According to the release, Poe sat for many photographic portraits during his short life. This one is a tintype made after a daguerreotype — an early type of photograph — owned originally by Poe's first fiancee, the former Sarah Royster. Since the 1970s, it has been owned by a private collector.

"His penetrating, deep-set eyes, dark hair, black-clad, somewhat disheveled dress, and now haggard features seem to portend his premature and lonely death just three weeks later," the release said.

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The daguerreotype was made in Richmond, Va., by photographer William A. Pratt and the tintype was created sometime within the next decade.

The auction will take place at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 14 at Swann, 104 E. 25th St., in New York.

Royster began dating Poe when she was just 15 while the future author was studying at the University of Virginia. But, the relationship ended when the teen's father intervened.

The two rekindled their romance more than two decades later and after the death of Royster's husband, Alexander Shelton. But, the author and the now-wealthy widow never married.

Scholars have speculated that Royster was the inspiration for Lenore, the character for whom the narrator of Poe's famous poem, "The Raven," mourns.

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

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